Includes Security, SRM, Cloud, ICM, SaaS, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse, Database Appliances, NFM, Storage Management.
This section covers all forms of technologies that impact IT infrastructure management. Taneja Group analysts particularly focus on the interplay between server virtualization and storage, with and without virtualization, and study the impact on performance, security and management of the IT infrastructure. This section also includes all aspects of storage management (SRM, SMI-S) and the role of cross correlation engines on overall performance of an application. Storage virtualization technologies (In-band, Out-of-band, split path architectures or SPAID) are all covered in detail. Data Security, whether for data in-flight or at-rest and enterprise level key management issues are covered along with all the players that make up the ecosystems.
As databases continue to grow larger and more complex they present issues in terms of security, performance and management. Taneja Group analysts cover the vendors and the technologies that harness the power of archiving to reduce the size of active databases. We also cover specialized database appliances that have become the vogue lately. All data protection issues surrounding databases are also covered in detail. We write extensively on this topic for the benefit of the IT user.
This Field Report was created by Taneja Group for Nutanix. The Taneja Group analyzed the experiences of seven Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform customers and seven Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Vblock customers. We did not ‘cherry-pick’ customers for dissatisfaction, delight, or specific use case; we were interested in typical customers’ honest reactions.
As we talked in detail to these customers, we kept seeing the same patterns: 1) VCE users were interested in converged systems; and 2) they chose VCE because VCE partners Cisco, EMC, and/or VMware were embedded in their IT relationships and sales. The VCE process had the advantage of vendor familiarity, but it came at a price: high capital expense, infrastructure and management complexity, expensive support contracts, and concerns over the long-term viability of the VCE partnership. VCE customers typically did not research other options for converged infrastructure prior to deploying the VCE Vblock solution.
In contrast, Nutanix users researched several convergence and hyperconvergence vendors to determine the best possible fit. Nutanix’ advanced web-scale framework gave them simplified architecture and management, reasonable acquisition and operating costs, and considerably faster time to value.
Our conclusion, based on the amount of time and effort spent by the teams responsible for managing converged infrastructure, is that VCE Vblock deployments represent an improvement over traditional architectures, but Nutanix hyperconvergence – especially with its web-scale architecture – is an big improvement over VCE.
This Field Report will compare customer experiences with Nutanix hyperconverged, web-scale infrastructure to VCE Vblock in real-world environments.
Scale Computing was an early proponent of hyperconverged appliances and is one of the innovators in this marketplace. Since the release of Scale Computing’s first hyperconverged appliance, many others have come to embrace the elegance of having storage and compute functionality combined on a single server. Even the virtualization juggernaut VMware has seen the benefits of abstracting, pooling, and running storage and compute on shared commodity hardware. VMware’s current hyperconverged storage initiative, VMware Virtual SAN, seems to be gaining traction in the marketplace. We thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare and contrast Scale Computing’s hyperconverged appliance to a hyperconverged solution built around VMware Virtual SAN. Before we delve into this exercise, however, let’s go over a little background history on the topic.
Taneja Group defines hyperconvergence as the integration of multiple previously separate IT domains into one system in order to serve up an entire IT infrastructure from a single device or system. This means that hyperconverged systems contain all IT infrastructure—networking, compute and storage—while promising to preserve the adaptability of the best traditional IT approaches. Such capability implies an architecture built for seamless and easy scaling over time, in a "grow as needed” fashion.
Scale Computing got its start with scale-out storage appliances and has since morphed these into a hyperconverged appliance—HC3. HC3 was the natural evolution of its well-regarded line of scale-out storage appliances, which includes both a hypervisor and a virtual infrastructure manager. HC3’s strong suit is its ease of use and affordability. The product has seen tremendous growth and now has over 900 deployments.
VMware got its start with compute virtualization software and is by far the largest virtualization company in the world. VMware has always been a software company, and takes pride in its hardware agnosticism. VMware’s first attempt to combine shared direct-attached storage (DAS) storage and compute on the same server resulted in a product called “VMware vSphere Storage Appliance” (VSA), which was released in June of 2011. VSA had many limitations and didn’t seem to gain traction in the marketplace and reached its end of availability (EOA) in June of 2014. VMware’s second attempt, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN), which was announced at VMworld in 2013, shows a lot of promise and seems to be gaining acceptance, with over 300 paying customers using the product. We will be comparing VMware Virtual SAN to Scale Computing’s hyperconverged appliance, HC3, in this paper.
Here we have two companies: Scale Computing, which has transformed from an early innovator in scale-out storage to a company that provides a hyperconverged appliance; and VMware, which was an early innovator in compute virtualization and since has transformed into a company that provides the software needed to create build-your-own hyperconverged systems. We looked deeply into both systems (HC3 and VSAN) and walked both through a series of exercises to see how they compare. We aimed this review at what we consider a sweet spot for these products: small to medium-sized enterprises with limited dedicated IT staff and a limited budget. After spending time with these two solutions, and probing various facets of them, we came up with some strong conclusions about their ability to provide an affordable, easy to use, scalable solution for this market.
The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on testing both in our lab and on-site at Scale Computing’s facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although we talk about performance in general terms, we do not, and you should not, construe this to be a benchmarking test. We have, in good faith, verified all conclusions made around any timing issues. Moreover, the numbers that we are using are generalities that we believe are widely known and accepted in the virtualization community.
Consolidation and enhanced management enabled by virtualization has revolutionized the practice of IT around the world over the past few years. By abstracting compute from the underlying hardware systems, and enabling oversubscription of physical systems by virtual workloads, IT has been able to pack more systems into the data center than before. Moreover, for the first time in seemingly decades, IT has also taken a serious leap ahead in management, as this same virtual infrastructure has wrapped the virtualized workload with better capabilities than ever before - tools like increased visibility, fast provisioning, enhanced cloning, and better data protection. The net result has been a serious increase in overall IT efficiency.
But not all is love and roses with the virtual infrastructure. In the face of serious benefits and consequent rampant adoption, virtualization continues to advance and bring about more capability. All too often, an increase in capability has come at the cost of complexity. Virtualization now promises to do everything from serving up compute instances, to providing network infrastructure and network security, to enabling private clouds.
For certain, much of this complexity exists between the individual physical infrastructures that IT must touch, and the simultaneous duplication that virtualization often brings into the picture. Virtual and physical networks must now be integrated, the relationship between virtual and physical servers must be tracked, and the administrator can barely answer with certainty whether key storage functions, like snapshots, should be managed on physical storage systems or in the virtual infrastructure.
With challenges surrounding the complexity in managing a virtualized datacenter, Scale Computing, long a provider of scale-out storage, introduced a new line of hyperconverged appliances - HC3 in April, 2012 and updated the appliances with the new HyperCore software in May, 2014. HC3 is an integration of storage and virtualized compute within a scale-out building block architecture that couples all of the elements of a virtual data center together inside a hyperconverged appliance. The result is a system that is simple to use and does away with much of the complexity associated with virtualization in the data center. By virtualizing and intermingling compute and storage inside a system that is designed for scale-out, HC3 does away with the need to manage virtual networks, assemble complex compute clusters, provision and manage storage, and a bevy of other day to day administrative tasks. Provisioning additional resources - any resource - becomes one-click-easy, and adding more physical resources as the business grows is reduced to a simple 2-minute exercise.
While this sounds compelling on the surface, Taneja Group recently turned our Technology Validation service - our hands-on lab service - to the task of evaluating whether Scale Computing's HC3 could deliver on these promises in the real world. For this task, we put an HC3 cluster through the paces to see how well it deployed, how it held up under use, and what special features it delivered that might go beyond the features found in traditional integrations of discreet compute and storage systems.
Taneja Group prepared a Field Report for Nutanix on the real-world customer experience for seven Nutanix hyperconvergence and seven VCE convergence customers. We did not cherry pick customers for dissatisfaction or delight; we were interested in typical customers’ honest reactions.
The same conclusions kept emerging: VCE users see convergence as a benefit over traditional do-it-yourself infrastructure, but an expensive one. Some of the concerns include high prices, infrastructure and management complexity, expensive support contracts, and concerns over the long-term viability of the partnership between EMC, VMware and Cisco. The Nutanix users also shared valuable hyperconvergence benefits. In contrast to VCE, they also cited simplified architecture and management, reasonable acquisition and operating costs, and considerably faster time to value.
Our conclusion is that VCE convergence is an improvement over traditional architecture, but Nutanix hyperconvergence is an evolutionary improvement over VCE.
The age of the software defined datacenter (SDDC) and converged infrastructure is upon us. The benefits of abstracting, pooling and running compute, storage and networking functions together on shared commodity hardware brings unprecedented agility and flexibility to the datacenter while driving actual costs down. The tectonic shift in the datacenter caused by software-defined storage and networking will prove to be as great as, and may prove to be greater than, the shift to virtualized servers during the last decade. While software-defined networking (SDN) is still in its infancy, software-defined storage (SDS) has been developing for quite some time.
LeftHand Networks (now HP StoreVirtual) released its first iSCSI VSA (virtual storage appliance) in 2007, which brought the advantages of software-based storage to small and midsize company environments. LeftHand Networks’ VSA was a virtual machine that hosted a software implementation of LeftHand’s well-regarded iSCSI hardware storage array. Since that time many other vendors have released VSAs, but none have captured the market share of HP’s StoreVirtual VSA. But the release of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) in March of 2014 could change that as VSAN, with the backing of the virtualization giant, is poised to be a serious contender in the SDS marketplace. Taneja Group thought that it would be interesting to take a closer look at how a mature, well regarded and widely deployed SDS product such as HP StoreVirtual VSA compares to the newest entry in the SDS market: VMware’s VSAN.
The observations we have made for both products are based on hands-on lab testing, but we do not consider this a Technology Validation exercise because we were not able to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison between the offerings, primarily due to the limited hardware compatibility list (HCL) for VMware VSAN. However, the hands-on testing that we were able to conduct gave us a very good understanding of both products. Both products surprised and, more often than not, did not disappoint us. In an ideal world without budgetary constraints, both products may have a place in your datacenter, but they are not by any means interchangeable. We found that one of the products would be more useful for a variety of datacenter storage needs, including some tier 1 use cases, while the other is more suited today to supporting the needs some of tier 2 and tier 3 applications.
The massive trend to virtualize servers has brought great benefits to IT data centers everywhere, but other domains of IT infrastructure have been challenged to likewise evolve. In particular, enterprise storage has remained expensively tied to a traditional hardware infrastructure based on antiquated logical constructs that are not well aligned with virtual workloads – ultimately impairing both IT efficiency and organizational agility.
Software-Defined Storage provides a new approach to making better use of storage resources in the virtual environment. Some software-defined solutions are even enabling storage provisioning and management on an object, database or per-VM level instead of struggling with block storage LUN’s or file volumes. In particular, VM-centricity, especially when combined with an automatic policy-based approach to management, enables virtual admins to deal with storage in the same mindset and in the same flow as other virtual admin tasks.
In this paper, we will look at VMware’s Virtual SAN product and its impact on operations. Virtual SAN brings both virtualized storage infrastructure and VM-centric storage together into one solution that significantly reduces cost compared to a traditional SAN. While this kind of software-defined storage alters the acquisition cost of storage in several big ways (avoiding proprietary storage hardware, dedicated storage adapters and fabrics, et.al.) here at Taneja Group what we find more significant is the opportunity for solutions like VMware’s Virtual SAN to fundamentally alter the on-going operational (or OPEX) costs of storage.
In this report, we will look at how Software-Defined Storage stands to transform the long term OPEX for storage by examining VMware’s Virtual SAN product. We’ll do this by examining a representative handful of key operational tasks associated with enterprise storage and the virtual infrastructure in our validation lab. We’ll examine the key data points recorded from our comparative hands-on examination, estimating the overall time and effort required for common OPEX tasks on both VMware Virtual SAN and traditional enterprise storage.